For Christmas, Sabrina gave me two nights in a tree house in the Laurentians with her. Our winter getaway was booked for January 7th, 8th and 9th (which, coincidentally, were the exact days that winter decided to sink its sharp fangs into your bones). I had no idea what to expect but I was excited – three full days with my daughter and an adventure to boot.
There was no electricity so we brought propane for a Coleman stove. There were bunks but no bedding so we brought our sleeping bags. And part of her gift idea was to kick-start my 2015 quest to claw my way back to fitness, so of course we brought winter hiking gear
For food I packed steak, smoked salmon, smoked oysters, bags of lettuce, peppers, carrots, celery, all manner of other vegies, fruit of every color (including a full watermelon), bacon, eggs, bread, peanut butter, yogurt and enough chilli ingredients to feed a small country for a month. I could go on but I fear your eyes will tire and your mind will wander.
I also wanted to teach Sabrina to crochet so naturally I needed to bring wool. A quick stop at Walmart en route to buy even more wool brought the final count to 14 balls.
When we checked in at the pavilion we were issued a little fire starter, 2 water containers and 2 enormous toboggans with long metal handles to go around the waist for ease of pulling. They gave us directions to the last treehouse and wished us well. After loading our purchased wood, our water, and all our gear into the toboggans, we set off down the trail into the darkening forest pulling our alarmingly heavy loads behind us.
It was peel-the-skin-off-your-face cold. We trudged up hills that often required both of us pulling and pushing each sled, we wound through the trees, occasionally having to backtrack to retrieve fallen items, until 45 minutes later, we arrived at our destination as night claimed the day. We wasted no time getting candles lit, loading our stuff up the stairs, and getting the fire started. The bunk was directly in front of the little woodstove. A counter, a sink (with a pail under it), and a little table and chairs filled the adorable little cabin. When everything was finally in, the sheer quantity of wool and food started us giggling and we couldn’t stop. Truth be told – I think I was a little delirious. It took me two hours to catch my breath.
We never did warm up that night but by the next morning, after loading the stove almost hourly, it was comfortable. By afternoon it was a perfect sauna. We enjoyed our time thoroughly with lots of laughing, hiking miles of trails among snow-covered evergreens, and reading and crocheting by candlelight. And of course, we ate like royalty.
The hike back out wasn’t as brutal. The temperature was more merciful, the water and wood were gone along with a surprising amount of the food. And I wasn’t pushing myself to near collapse to beat the dark. They told us at the pavilion that it was a record -32 plus wind chill our first night there.
Sometimes I bemoan how creaky my knees are or how bad my eyes are getting, or some other such age-related grievance. But I feel pretty darn grateful that I am still up for the makings of such marvelous memories with my daughter.